Notes from the Field

Host a Corn Roast!

Spark a little magic among neighbors with an old-fashioned corn roast. Whether planning a barefoot affair or something more stylish, here are tips for the host:

Buy Fresh. If purchasing from a farmers’ market, ask if the corn has been picked that day. Otherwise, peel part of the husk back and prick a kernel using your fingernail. If it oozes a milky liquid, the corn is fresh.

Grow your own! Garden-friendly varieties include Peaches ’n Cream, Trinity, and Ambrosia.

For moist results: Soak an ear of corn, husk and all, in water for about an hour. Once the husk is fully penetrated, set directly on a medium-hot grill. Then cook, turning occasionally until the outer husk becomes brown and brittle, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve  with  the  fixings. Set out corny condiments such as shredded Parmesan cheese, seasoned salts, or butter infused with fresh herbs, hot sauce, or lime juice.

Spotlight on Sunflowers

Available in a dizzying array of sizes and colors, sunflowers are easy to grow and attract birds. But did you know that their seeds are packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, and phytochemicals for you, too? It’s true!

To harvest these pint-sized powerhouses, allow the flower heads to dry in the garden. Just be sure to cover them with cheesecloth (or even nylons) so the birds don’t get to them first. You can tell that the seeds are ready for picking when most of the petals have dropped and the back of the flower head is brown. Cut the seed heads off and rub the seeds out by hand.

To eat, soak the seeds overnight in salt water (use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt per two quarts of water). Drain and dry on paper towels. Then roast them in a shallow pan at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Once roasted, sunflower seeds can be added to green salads, used in baked goods, or just eaten as a snack. Plus, they’re the perfect substitute for family members suffering from nut allergies.

Water-wise Gardening

Conserving water is good for the environment, plus it saves you time and money. Here are some smart watering practices to try today:

1. Group plants with similar watering needs. This reduces the likelihood of wasting water on neighboring plants that don’t need it.

2. Apply mulch. Doing so an inch or two around plants helps conserve soil moisture. Try organic mulches such as grass clippings or shredded leaves. Eventually, these break down and enrich the soil.

3. Avoid overhead sprinklers. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems instead. These devices deliver water right where it’s needed — around the plant’s root zone — and with less evaporation and runoff.

4. Select drought-tolerant plants: California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), lantana (Lantana camara), snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

Relaxing Lavender Mint Tea
(Makes 1 cup)

1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender buds
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or 2 teaspoons dried mint

Combine lavender flowers and mint in a teapot.

Pour in 1 cup boiling water and steep for 5 minutes.